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May 27, 2017

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Tempting big spenders with their own language

Luxury fashion brand's new store in London caters to customers from China with more tailored services

Italian menswear designer Ermenegildo Zegna has taken Chinese customers to heart with salespeople speaking their own language at its new and largest store in London's Bond Street.

The store, launched on Nov 9, has hired Chinese-speaking sales staff and is offering the personalized services of a Chinese consultant who can explain the brand's history and culture.

The luxury menswear brand's CEO, Ermenegildo "Gildo" Zegna, said the move shows a strong focus on Chinese shoppers overseas as a result of soaring number of Chinese tourists visiting the UK.

The fourth-generation CEO of his family's fashion house said: "Chinese customers are one of our biggest clientele. By offering native speaking staff, who understand the culture and the customers' needs, we are able to bring a comfortable shopping experience to our Chinese patrons."

The Italian company, which owns sheep farms in Australia that supply wool to its Italian mill, opened in China in 1991.

It was the first luxury apparel company to launch in the Chinese market and China is now its biggest single market, accounting for about a third of global sales of 1.26 billion euros ($1.34 billion) in 2015.

"This would not have happened if we hadn't taken the market seriously by making an early entry, building the right store, creating the right team and continuing to invest in new things," Zegna said.

He believes China is a market where retailers cannot stand still, because customers keep asking for more and the competition is fierce.

"To remain a leader as a menswear luxury brand in China you have to keep renewing yourself and reinvesting in the brand to make sure that people are given superior service and a constant innovative brand proposition," Zegna said.

He added that China's key stores were a testing ground for new products and new ideas as Chinese customers enjoyed looking for something new.

Recently Zegna spoke to China Daily about his vision and strategy and new opportunities for Zegna's operations in China.

The following are edited excerpts of the interview:

How would you describe Zegna's prospects in China in the current economic environment?

Our commitment to China has been demonstrated over many years. As you know, we have been dressing Chinese men for over 25 years dating back to 1991, when we opened our first China boutique in Beijing.

Throughout this time we have been fortunate to see the amazing change and development that has made China what it is today.

We have offered the Chinese gentleman unparalleled craftsmanship and bespoke style that is both modern and highly relevant to their wardrobe needs.

When I look at China's future, I believe digital is the key-everyone in China has a mobile phone.

We have to understand quickly how customers' desires change and that's why you need to be connected as a brand and tell your story via mobile.

This generation has been rocked by digitization, and the organic integration of online and offline sales can offer a whole new development path for the Zegna brand in China and globally.

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